Drowning Lessons

[This is a re-written, edited version of Drowning Lessons. Yup. Literally just that.] There's a trick to building yourself back together. Sam mastered it long ago, and now he's got to try and teach his best friend the same thing. Brandon is sinking fast, and all Sam can do is try to teach him to swim.


7. Chapter Six


"It's a funny thing:

when you talk to God, you're religious.

But when he talk to you

you're a psychopath."

                                                    - Peter Steele



Michael loooooved his newest project. 

But he'd liked the other one too- it had been pristine and polished and perfect, and he liked that her lipstick had twisted and rippled over her lips to mix with her blood; dark and scarlet and delicious. He had liked how blonde her hair had been- so pale that it had almost been white, the same soft virgin white that she always used to wear. His plaything had claimed that the colour kept her pure for him, for her Angel, her God. 

Michael had almost laughed at her.

His old plaything had been pretty and fun to use, fun to tear apart, but this new one was twisted in ways that the over one wasn't, dark in ways his old one could never have been. This one allowed his failings, his shortcomings, to scar him, to twist inside his being like demonic black smoke and corrupt him from the inside out. This one created his own darkness- it wasn't thrust upon him through steel-tipped words and bloody fists like his old toy. Her darkness had manifested in the shape of needles and alcohol and desperate, shaking need. 

This new toy was far more fun. 

This one had black, black hair, pale eyes, and found Michael utterly enamouring. He could see it in them, in their heart, inside of them. He could hear the cacophony inside their head, the desperate pleading for attention, for love. This one was a lost puppy, hungry for guidance, for a trail of breadcrumbs leading out of the bottomless pit he'd unknowingly thrown himself into.   

This toy wasn't his only one of course. They all were. They were his little pets, his playthings, toys to mold and change to whatever he wanted them to be. They came to him of their own free will, parched and starving for redemption. He could see it, taste it: leaking from their pores, staining the air like a foul scent. If he'd been weaker, then it was possible that their dirt could have changed him, turned him into one of them. Corrupted him. Made him into a monster, just like they had once been. 

But he was an angel, so they could not touch him. They could not harm him. He was ANGEL. 

It had started years ago- the voice in his head. It had been smooth and soft and liquid gold, the sound of pure light. No one else could hear it and so they called him crazy, aiming steel words and poison arrows at him, striking him down again and again and again and again. Even his parents thought him mad- he was shipped to counsellors and psychiatrists just his child-self had been delivered to nameless and faceless babysitters as his parents choked themselves on their work until late at night. 

But this voice, despite it being in his head, was kind. It was perfect. The first friend he'd had for the last twenty years. Anyone person he wrapped around himself was essentially nothing but a distraction, a feeble, boring human with such a feeble, simple mind. He hated them, their basic animal ignorance, and their sheep-like stupidity and obedience was simply another thing that grated against his patience like barbed wire. They all loved him, of course they did.

But he loved this voice, love it in a way he’d never loved anything throughout his entire meaningless existence. The voice in his head pushed away any of the dark broodings of a murderous psychopath and the insistent howling that the world was rotten, and filled that space with golden light and promises of… well, something.

It talked to him, with whispering words as soft and silent as a summer breeze.          

And Michael had listened.

The voice was called Michael. And Michael was an angel. And not just an angel, interestingly enough. He was an archangel, the holy being who had fought and defeated Satan himself. One of the greatest beings ever to exist. And now… this creature, this empyrean being whose power tumbled from his shoulders in waves, wanted him. Needed him.

Michael could barely remember what his original name had been. Had it begun with an L? Or had it began with a H? It didn’t matter either way. Michael let the voice in, let it become part of him, and he vowed to the angel that he would help rescue the world from its own demons.

This had been his chance. The world was dying, crumbling, in on itself like a dying star.

Michael was the son of a highly respected businessman. He knew how to talk to people and how to ensure that they trusted him. He knew how to wind his promises and compliments into nooses and how to wrap those nooses around their throats without them even realising. It was what he did. He didn't hurt them; his words were his weapons- his promises of Heaven, of salvation, of what was waiting for them as long as they remained perfect and clean. As long as they remained perfect, with neatly-brushed hair and porcelain features. Like china dolls. They swore to love him forever, to obey him without question, just like the perfect little puppets he'd made them into. 

But this latest addition was all wrong, all twisted on the inside. 

He hadn’t seen it at first, and that was his own mistake. His first mistake, the first time he’d let his angel down. This boy didn't believe in him. Not enough. 

Not enough to be redeemed. 

At first, this had been a problem. He didn't want to kill him, despite his blackened soul.

He was an angel after all. He was Michael, archangel, Knight of Heaven, and angels didn’t kill innocent fools. The angel had become part of him in order to save humans  from themselves and the black smoke that curled possessively around their souls like snakes, choking the purity from them with each breath. 
But this boy had been a problem at first- a dilemma. 

Of course, his old plaything had been exactly the same. The identical lack of conviction, the lies, the false belief. She'd been after money, and he was after companionship. 

Neither of them wanted what he'd been offering- a new life, security, redemption. 

But what could he do? 

His old toy had died long before he could really help her. He’d tried, of course he had; he’d begun to pull her apart, begun to rip the darkness out of her in the roaring silence and crushing blackness of the locked basement he’d imprisoned her in. He’d screamed at her to give up her sins until he could taste blood stinging the back of his throat like the hydrochloric acid he’d doused his pet hamster in when he was twelve. He told her that she could help him save the world if only she tried. He had ordered a group of the more loyal of his disciples to beat the blackness from her, but even that had failed.

He hadn’t had chance to dig in his claws and rip her apart like a rag doll. Like an animal in a science lab. He'd only scratched the surface, and that had not been enough.

But this new one... this new plaything was delicious... ragged and smooth and hard. This one was fun to tear apart. Unfortunately the man... the boy.... bored him. This one broke far too easily. This one gave up before he’d even begun. There wasn't enough of an animal writhing, howling inside of them to be trained, to be cleansed and be perfected.

He’d seen the news reports. He’d seen how his friend- what had his name been? Sam? Yes, that was it. Sam- had been choking on his words as he announced that there’d still been no sign of his best friend for over a month. His girlfriend was sobbing, tanned skin stained grey beneath the ashen clouds, golden hair fraying and dulled, hanging lank around her shoulders. “Please, Brandon,” she’d choked. “Wherever you are, please come back. Please.”

But they weren’t going to give up- oh no. Brandon was still out there, she said, as her chin lifted and she shot a small, defiant glare at the camera as Samuel Farah wound his fingers together in a anxious knot. Michael wondered if his toy knew how much his best friend loved him.

But it had taken a while for Michael to really find the solution. He'd thought, he'd pondered, he'd prayed to the angel in his head. It had taken hours- he could taste his disciples’ fear in the air- their worry and concern for him, for what his toy had done to himself. But of course, he finally did arrive at the perfect answer. Eventually. It had been like a lightning strike: electrifying the synapses in his mind, derailing every individual train of thought into one, only one.

Heaven was always in need of an attack dog after all.

The tiled floor was icy against his palms. He stood slowly, the blood rushing back into his deadened limbs in a single tumbling wave that almost sent him staggering. He smiled, teeth flashing in the the cold light like a moonlight glint on a panther’s ivory fangs. Tonight. Tonight was perfect.

He made his way down into the basement, cold creeping off the stones and leeching into his bones. That was always the problem with Scotland- even in summer, it was still cold. It was always so, so cold. He may as well have locked himself in a fridge.  

He’d locked a stray dog in his family’s freezer once. Just to see what would happen, of course. It had died after a few hours. Sometimes he wondered whether he’d walk into the basement to find his latest little toy frozen solid, just like the Labrador puppy had been.

He threw open the door dramatically, cool air striking him like a slap across his face. There was a shape in the corner, curled up into a ball, the stench of blood and dirt stroking sordid fingers against his bare skin, squirming down his windpipe and almost choking him.

He threw a careless smile towards the human shape on the floor, dark hair long and matted with blood and things Michael didn’t want to consider. He took a step closer and rested a gentle hand on his face, tugging the gaunt face up to meet his own.

“I once promised you that we would change the world, and that starts today, Brandon Hope.”

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